Policy targets the ‘vulnerable’

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A TAX policy that target’s the area’s ‘most vulnerable’ single parents has seen North Somerset Council branded one of the ‘meanest’ local authorities in the country.

Only eight per cent of councils around the UK – 26 out of 328 – consider child maintenance payments as income when calculating council tax support, while only three of the 26 charge council tax for those in low incomes at more than 20 per cent of the standard rate.

North Somerset is one of them, levying a 24.5 per cent charge.

This has led Fiona Weir, chief executive of single parent charity Gingerbread, to write to council leader Nigel Ashton to highlight concerns and urge a rethink.

Gingerbread says it does not believe a ‘short’ public consultation on the issue– carried out over Christmas last year and drawing only three responses – ‘was either adequate or fully transparent’.


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It also says that, since 90 per cent of single parents are women, the council should have given more thought to equality.

Ms Weir said: “It takes money away from children in separated families, who are already twice as likely to be at risk of poverty compared to children in couple families.

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“It undermines parental responsibility for children, by discouraging low income single parents from engaging a child’s other parent in paying toward their children’s upkeep.

“Gingerbread acknowledges it is now too late to reopen the council’s decision regarding its council tax support scheme for 2014/15.

“However... we would urge the council to reconsider the treatment of child maintenance in its 2015/16 scheme.”

The stance was backed by Green councillor Tom Leimdorfer. He said: “North Somerset Council is amongst the meanest in the land.

“Some of these single parents are struggling to engage the other parent in paying towards their children’s upkeep, some have been hit by the ‘bedroom tax’ and they have been affected by other benefit cuts.

“It’s time to stop taking pride in being the meanest and hitting the most vulnerable.”

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